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Dagestan - the Land of Myths and Legends



Sharvily is the most respected national hero in Southern Dagestan. He was a fearless defender of his Motherland, tireless grain-grower. His image symbolizes the century long fight of  Lezghy people for freedom and justice.  The hero had only one weak point: like Antes he didnt have to tear off the ground. Just in the place where the bridge of Idris connects two banks of the mountainous river Akhty-chai hostile people asked Sharvily who had gained lots of victories before in the most difficult fights with the enemies, if he would have been able to jump from one bank of the river to the other. The hercules didnt suspect that the enemies spread the pees around the place from where he had to jump and covered them with a thin rug. The whole village came to see him jump - his friends- poor villagers and his enemies-rich villagers. Sharvily began running but slipped on the pees,  fell down from the edge of the bank, struck against the rock and died.

 They say that he was buried in his native village of Akhty, but nobody knows where his grave is. In commemoration of the great hero people in Dagestan have celebrations. Thousands of men make pilgrimage to the foot of the mountain on top of which according to the legend there had been buried the heros sword. Recently the thankful villagers built a beautiful rotunda with six white columns and silver dome in memory of Sharvily. Here the young men compete in strength and adroitness, amateur artists sing old songs and dance old traditional dances, and the children enjoy eating sweets.





The village of Balkhar where the people of the Luck nationality live is situated in the foothill Dagestan. This mountainous village is famous for its original pottery decorated with elegant white clay. There is a legend in Balkhar about the first potter, the man called Kalkuchchy. One day this poor man sitting in a gloomy mood on the shore of the lake thinking how to earn his living. Involuntarily he paid attention to the boys who were making simple toys from clay. Kalkuchchy decided to sculp something from clay too. So he sculped the water jug. The first jug paved the way to the famous homecraft in the village. Kalkuchchy began teaching the villagers pottery handicraft. But the life showed that the most delicate and beautiful vessels were made by the women. In this way there was born the art of the famous women potters who great skills are known all around the world.



In Dagestan the village of Kubachy is considered a miracle that has come to our times from the medieval ages. The village is situated at the height of 1800 meters above the sea level, but according to Dagestan measures it is situated in a Foothill region.  The village is not small, but in good times there lived 7-9 thousand villagers there and this fact let the villagers consider their village a small state.  A row of houses runs down the mountain slope and it is compared with the stone waterfall or with the ladder to the sky. The houses are situated one above another. They are spacious, well built, having two or three stores with numerous rooms. Every house has got a room for meeting guests, for the rest, having meals, and what is more important a room for jewelry shop, and private museum collection.    

 In Persian chronicles the village is mentioned even in the IV century as Zerihgeran (Armory) which means Kubachy in the Turkish language. Another name of the village is Ugbug which means peoples blighters. It is easy to find out why they were called so. It was a village of weapon makers, and what are weapons made for? For killing people. Though it is quite clear that in medieval times the smiths were busy with making swords, sabers and amours. The most expensive goods were decorated with jewelry which gave the goods additional value.  Among the most famous goods produced by them are the two-horned helmet by Alexander the Macedonian, Prince Alexander Nevskys shield, the saber of Nadir Shah, and the set of cold weapons in Victoria and Albert museum in London  which was presented to Queen Victoria by the Russian tsar Alexander III. The Kubachy sabers were very popular within the dragoons in Russian army.

 When peaceful time came they became familiar with the new job- they began producing jewelry and refined silver dishes. During the Romanovs ruling and in Soviet times it was considered a good taste to have at home silver wine glasses, jugs, and vases made by Kubachy craftsmen. The ladies wore famous bracelets, rings and earrings with great pleasure. . 

 Every family in Kubachy had its own design which was used only by this craftsman and this design was kept a secret as the women keep the recipes of making adzhika and baking bread. As we know the Islam prohibits depicting living beings thats why all the designs were of natural character. The craftsman invented very interesting designs of the leaves, flowers, stalks even those that would never be able to grow on a stony land of the Foothill Caucasus. 

The technique of the craftsmen of Kubachy is very difficult and variable.

There is a legend about gold smiths from Kubachy. Once upon a time the gold smiths from Persia having decided to humiliate them sent to the village a very thin wire with the following message: Try to make the same and send it to us. They were greatly astonished when some time later got the same wire but drilled inside. The gold smiths from Kubachy mockingly wrote: we make pipes from such wire.  



The Fortress of Seven Brothers


On a small hill at the distance of 3-4 kilometers from the village of Khuchny, the regional center of Tabasaran region, there are  ruins of the former fortress which was known as The Fortress of Seven Brothers. The legend says that previously seven brothers lived there with a very beautiful sister. People say that the girls silky hair was so long that when she wanted to get the water she tied the water jug to her plaits and let it down into the river. Her brothers were known as brave herculeses and skillful warriors. They protected the neighboring villages.  

 Once during one of the enemys sieges the sister fell in love with the commander of the enemys army. He persuaded her to pour secretly salty water into the smooth bores of brothers rifles and into the sheath of their swords so that not only to save them but to praise them. 

But on seeing unarmed defenders of the fortress the commander of the enemies broke his word. He ordered to execute brothers one after another and finally to kill the girl because he thought that girl who betrayed her brother couldnt be trusted as she could betray again and she deserved death. The villagers made a stone hill over her tomb. 

Even nowadays one can see a stony hill not far from the road near the fortress. It is considered to be a grave of the sister of the brave brothers. Every man passing by the hill throws seven stones at it as a sign of contempt to the traitor.  But every woman passing by the hill takes one stone from it in respect to the force of love.


The Sleeping Beauty


The gigantic rocks rise in the North and North-West sides above Dagestan village of Gunib. If to look attentively at their ridge one can see in the background of the evening sky a profile of a lying girl.  One can see a chokhto - a head-dress, put on a broad forehead, long eyelashes covering her eyes, a nice chin, high breast. The people call this rock Sleeping Beauty or Shamils Daughter.

The legend say: Once upon a time there lived a khan and he had a very beautiful daughter.  A village herder fell in love with her. The girl loved him too. But they couldnt even think about marriage. Wicked people told the khan about their feelings.  The khan got very angry. He called his daughter and told her to go to the mountain and think about her feelings the whole night long and in the morning tell him if she had changed her mind to marry the poor herder. The girl went to the mountain and sat down on a rock. She didnt want to think and change her mind as she loved the young man very dearly. It became cold. The cold wind was blowing.  She lay down and fell asleep.

 When the khans servants came to the mountain in the morning they didnt find the girl there because she turned into a stone and became part of that rock. On seeing this her beloved who was shepherding the sheep on the Kegher  mountains had become so sad that turned into the stone.

When you see the profile of the sleeping beauty in the background of the evening sky turn around and youll be able to see behind the river Kara Koisu on Kegher rocks the head of the stark young man.



There is a very surprising natural place of interest on the border of the steppe and foothill Dagestan.

It is a sandy Dune Sarykum, a piece of Asian desert in the hart of mountainous region. The world learnt about its existence in the XIX century when the great French writer Alexander Dumas-the father who had visited Dagestan before described its beauty in his book Caucasus from Prometheus to Shamil. 

The name Sarykum in Kumik language  means Yellow sand. There are several dunes here  but they dont occupy a large territory approximately 10 kilometers in length and 3-4 kilometers in width.  

The height of the dune changes all the time but the average height is 260 meters. It is the highest sandy dune not only in Russia but in Eurasia. Its age is more than several hundred thousands years. 

 Because of the wind the dune changes its form very often but its foot always remains in the same place, at the edge of Kumtorkala mountain range where the mountains meet with the steppe.

There are many legends about its origin. According to one of them before intending to go to fight with Tohtamysh khan Aksak-Temir decided to check how many warriors he had got in his army.  Every warrior was ordered to put sand into his helmet and then pour it out in one place. When every warrior emptied his helmet Aksak-Temir saw a mountain of sand. On seeing it he believed that he would be able to conquer the greatest state of their time The Golden Horde, Northern Dagestan being part of it at that time.       

Here is another legend but this time it is a love story. In the village of Kumtorkala there lived a man called Ibrahim. He had a very beautiful daughter Bariyat. Many young men wanted to marry her but she loved only one man- Bulat. Many time Bulat came to Ibrahim and asked him a  permission to marry  Bariat but Ibrahim refused all the time. But the girl was stubborn and didnt want to marry any other man. And then Ibrahim told Bulat to do the following: Bring from the sea and throw up such a large sandy mountain behind the river Shura-Ozen that you would be able to see our house from its top. Only then I will believe that you love my daughter. And Bulat agreed.   

  Months passed, years passed but the mountain grew very slowly.  It became more and more difficult for Bulat to bring sand from the sea. He was very tired. Once having climbed the mountain he saw his native village. He noticed a womans figure on the roof of familiar house. And though it was difficult to see the face he recognized his beloved. Bulat ran down the slope, crossed the river and ran to the village. Finally he could marry his beloved Bariyat.  But who did he see? A crooked old grey haired woman was looking ruefully at the approaching man. Her cheeks had become hollow; her eyes had lost their color because of constant tears.  

What an awful picture! Only then he paid attention to his long white beard. The youth had past away and the whole life had passed away  But the monument to unhappy love of Bulat and Bariyat stands near Kumik village of Kumtorkala.

  But the real reason of the formation of the Dune is connected with the winds. During centuries they had been destroying the neighboring mountains and brought the sand into one place. In this way the Sandy Dune was formed. The winds in this place blow in such a way that they only change the image of the dune, but the dune itself remains in the place where it is.

 Sarykum is the hottest place in Dagestan.  In summer the temperature on the southern slopes can reach +60 degrees Celsius and sometimes it comes up to + 90 Degrees. In such conditions only typically desert inhabitants such as cobras, ground squirrel, and scorpions can survive. 

The Sarykum Dune is a natural monument and is protected by the state.



Hercules's Columns


To perform his twelve heroic deeds the legendary hero unconquerable Hercules had to travel a lot. According to the Myths he erected a giant stone in every place he had performed his heroic deed. Herculess columns were scattered all over the world. People found them in French Britain, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in Greenland, in northern part of Istanbul and in the Urals.  

 The Myths of ancient Greece say that he liberated chained to the rock Prometheus somewhere in the Caucasian mountains. The scientists still dispute about the place of this heroic deed but the librarians of Khasavyurt city library are sure that they have found it in the surroundings of the Dagestan mountainous village of Burtunai.

 First of all in this place high mountain river banks look like conglomeration of huge columns which are very much alike Herculess Columns, which have preserved in other parts of the world. Secondly, the local people mark strange unusual phenomenon which takes place occasionally in this area. The same event happens near the Herculess columns in other parts of the world where the apparatus  mark vertical flows of energy. And finally it is known that all the Herculess Columns were connected with one another by the system of underground catacombs. Evidently like those not studied yet caves near Burtunai.

 If we are right or wrong it is for the scientists to decide. But this place is sure to have its special energy which gives strength to the youth of Dagestan who go in for Fee Style Wrestling since their childhood.